ST. PAUL – Meeker, Sibley and Kandiyohi counties are set to receive disaster-recovery aid through a $167.5 million relief package the Minnesota House approved Friday.
The House and the Senate both conducted a one-day special session to provide aid after flooding and high winds caused severe damage throughout the state in June and July. The legislation passed the House with widespread bipartisan support and Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, said he expected the Senate to also provide approval Friday and for Gov. Mark Dayton to enact the legislation.
There are two pots of funding in the relief package. The larger portion is $159.6 million to assist counties included in the Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster. Meeker, Sibley and Kandiyohi are on the list, along with other counties which suffered damage from storms and flooding that occurred on or after June 14. Other counties include: Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Crow Wing, Dakota, Goodhue, Lake, Pine, Rice and St. Louis, and to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
“Our state has a responsibility to respond in times of natural disaster,” Urdahl said. “I am pleased we assisted in recovery efforts and that we included accountability provisions to protect taxpayers. Our bill states this aid must be applied specifically to recovery efforts and may not be diverted to additional projects. Language also stipulates any unused money must be returned to the state.”
The lesser appropriation is $7.8 million to help the following counties recover from July 2 windstorms: Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, St. Louis, and Cass Counties, and to the Leech Lake and Bois Forte bands of Ojibwe.
The Legislature’s aid package is roughly $28 million less than Gov. Mark Dayton proposed. Urdahl said lawmakers favored the lower price tag for a couple of key reasons. First, damage assessments are not yet final. Also, additional existing revenue is available through various departments should the final cost exceed $167.5 million.
Urdahl also said it was important to provide recovery aid this summer, helping citizens make inhabitable homes livable again before winter arrives.
Dean Urdahl represents District 18B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The district includes most of Meeker County and a portion of Wright County. This is Urdahl’s fifth term in the Legislature after being elected in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.